Final push now needed to secure 24 hour access at Lagan Valley
New proposal will accommodate 97% of patients who used A&E
by Julie Ann Spence
Lagan Valley Hospital
THE CAMPAIGN to restore 24 hour access to emergency services at the Lagan Valley Hospital has moved a step closer to success this week when the South Eastern Trust confirmed it would be launching a consultation process in which it will recommend night and day cover.
Last year the Star launched the campaign aimed at getting back a round the clock service at the Lisburn hospital after a shortage of junior doctors forced the Trust to close the A&E department overnight.
There was a massive response with thousands of local people signing our petition and relating their stories of why local access to emergency care was so vital.
At the time the South Eastern they would pledged they would listen and this week, at a meeting with Lisburn councillors, revealed plans for 24 hour access which will be presented to the Trust Board at the end of this month before a public consultation is launched. It is then local people will have their last chance to make their voice heard.
The Trust will be presenting four options to the Board, however their preferred vision is to have 24 hour service made up of limited emergency department hours, together with enhanced GP out-of-hours, which will include direct admissions to the hospital. This option will also include the co-location We are winning hospital battle of the health centre, as well as enhanced roles for Emergency Department nursing staff. It would mean the hospital would have its doors open 24 hours a day to patients. Making the presentation to the Council's Corporate Services Committee, the Trust's Director of Hospital Services, Mr Seamus McGoran said they were still finalising details for the proposals, including the exact opening hours at the emergency department.
"The challenge is to maintain the current opening hours," he said. "In an ideal world we would like to extend them, but we have to shape a service which is sustainable in terms of the availability of doctors to staff the unit. We are working on this at present"
Following the public consultation, which is due to run until April 18, the final proposal will be brought before the Trust Board in May before going to the Health Minister, Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots, who will make a final decision.
Mr Poots has repeatedly expressed his support for the Lisburn hospital and this week he once again reiterated that support, saying this was a "significant step in reinstating 24 hour services at the Lagan Valley Hospital."
Mr Poots continued: "The proposal as it stands would accommodate 97% of people who had previously used the service on a 24 hour basis and it is important to ensure the hospital is able to receive people on a 24 hour basis for admittance to wards.
"The reduction in hours was something that could not have been anticipated and it has been a difficult period in time for the hospital.
"I trust that we can have a positive outcome which will enable us to move forward in the future," he concluded.
THE Chairman of Lisburn City Council's Corporate Services Committee, Northern Ireland is inevitable has welcomed the proposals put forward by the Trust, which could see 24 hour access restored to Lagan Valley Hospital in the next few months.
Speaking following this week committee meeting, Mr Martin welcomed the Trust's Management Team's ongoing efforts.
There is little doubt that the Trust has put considerable time and effort into finding a sustainable model for Lagan Valley" said Mr Martin.
"Following on from the recent publication of the Compton review, major change in healthcare across Northern Ireland is inevitable but I am encouraged by the commitment that is being shown by all those involved to finding a solution to 24-hour access at Lagan Valley Hospital.
"Our joint campaign with the Ulster Star has clearly had a significant bearing on the Trust's thinking as they plan for the future and I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks to all those who signed the petition.
"While not wishing to preempt the findings of any consultation process, it is likely that a collaborative approach across health care providers will be necessary to secure a 24-hour service, which is what the Council continues to campaign for at the Lagan Valley Hospital.
The Council will be making strong representations in support of a high quality sustainable and safe service at Lagan Valley," concluded Mr Martin.